Entrepreneurs are natural-born travelers and Seat 3A takes you along for the globe-trotting ride, delivering travel tips, insights and candid photos from self-made men and women.
Name: Ariel Garten
Occupation: CEO and co-founder of InteraXon, makers of Muse: the brain sensing headband.
Bio: Ariel Garten is CEO and co-founder of InteraXon, creators of Muse: the brain sensing headband. Ariel studied neuroscience at the University of Toronto and did research in hippocampal neurogenesis at Toronto’s esteemed Krembil Neuroscience Centre. No mere science nerd, however, Ariel is also a psychotherapist, a fashion designer whose clothing opened Toronto Fashion Week in 2003, and an artist whose work has been displayed at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Ariel’s unique combination of science and art is integral to the design of every aspect of Muse and to InteraXon’s approach to brain sensing technology, making it a vital part of everyday life.
Q: Most visited destination for business
A: San Francisco.
Q: Local knowledge tip
A: Check out Embassy Network: a house where a group of forward-minded entrepreneurs lives, where you can stay too. More info here: http://embassynetwork.com/.
Q: DIY vs. travel agent
A: Flight Centre Bay Street, all the way! They’re startup cost-conscious and go the extra mile (pun intended!). Everybody there is really amazing – if you are stuck somewhere or miss a connection, they know and they find a solution. Travel is hassle free – I’m totally passionate about their service.
Q: Most impressive airport
A: Definitely Detroit. It has jumping water fountains and a Light Tunnel installation. It’s an underground tunnel with a movator and as you travel through it, it feels like a moment out of time. Really, airport experiences can be miserable, but not this one. They’ve outfitted it with a sound and lighting installation that glows and grows and ebbs and flows as you move through it. It’s one of those times where the journey is as rewarding as the destination.
Check it out: www.metroairport.com/TravelerInfo/GeneralInfo/CoolStuff/Tunnel.aspx
Q: Preferred luggage
A: The most important feature is that it’s rolling.
Q: What three things are on your must-pack-or-will-suffer-a-meltdown list?
A: There are four:
1. Bathing suit
2. Cell phone
3. Muse, our brain sensing headband. I use it in airports to unwind before my flight, and it helps me adjust to jet lag!
4. Mac Air charger – though you can borrow pretty effectively if you’re open to meeting new people. I’ve been known to scout around airport lounges for Mac users, to borrow some power and boost me up for the next leg of the journey.
Q: Preferred airline
A: Porter if I’m going somewhere on their route.
Air Canada for the rest.
Q: Aisle or window
A: Window, without hesitation.
Q: Jet lag strategy
A: Try to immediately sync yourself up with your destination’s time zone by sleeping according to the new time zone’s hours. Be rigorous about keeping to the destination’s sleeping schedule no matter how exhausted you are.
Also, if you are going West, make the best of the time zone difference with early morning meetings! And when sleep doesn’t come easy, use Muse.
Q: Staying in shape on the road
A: Walking – it’s multipurpose! I once read that 30 minutes of walking each day can add 1.5 years onto your life expectancy. Also, I do a form of modern dance called contact improv, and there are dance classes in every city that you can join. In SF, it’s Tuesdays, Berkeley it’s Thursdays. And, I use Muse to keep my brain fit.
Q: Time & money saving tips
A: The ROAM SIM card. I have a T-Mobile US cell for when I travel, but the rest of my team uses ROAM. It seems to be low hassle, and you can keep the same number even when not in use.
Q: What hotel has truly lived up to the hype?
A: Banff Springs Hotel. Built in a castle, you can hike the mountains from your hotel doorstep, and the outdoor pool is heated so you can soak and swim in soothing warmth with snow-capped mountain peaks all around you.
Q: Your most amusing or regrettable holiday souvenir
A: Aside from sunburns and stomach flus, nothing comes to mind!
Q: What do you enjoy finding most in a mini-bar?
A: The ability to remove items and use the fridge to chill fruit or vegetables I buy locally.
Q: Describe your guilty pleasure when traveling
A: Actually enjoying it. It’s not a guilty pleasure at all, just a real, honest one. Many people do not like traveling extensively for work, but when I started I swore that I would never get sick of travel, nor would I complain about it. Who cares if I have to stand in line or take my shoes off at security? I get the privilege of seeing the world, doing business amongst different cultures – I wish North American business meetings let you call team huddles before you answer tough questions like you can in Japan! Seeing the world’s amazing sites, and taking in and creating culture on a global scale – I’ll take my shoes off for that any day
Q: What foreign phrase do you most enjoy tossing about?
A: Learning to say thank you in whichever language of the country I’m in goes a long way.
Q: Brushes with greatness: Most famous or interesting person you have spotted or bantered with on your travels . . .
A: I’ve had a lot of run-ins with amazing people. It’s an interesting list that includes Owen Wilson, Goldie Hawn, Deepak Chopra, Ashton Kutcher and the Dalai Lama – though not all together, of course – but what a fun time that would be. Owen Wilson tried Muse in the lobby at TED this past March. I’d also met him in Austin, TX, at the Four Seasons, so it was great to cross his path again and have him try it. He was totally fascinated. Deepak, I met in Boston – also at the Four Seasons, and Goldie several times, first in the lobby of a Westin. Ashton is now an investor.
The Dalai Lama story is a favourite of mine. When I first started traveling – personal rather than work – I was in Japan. Moments before I was supposed to go catch my train, I was actually shopping. I was overloaded with packages and when I got to the station, sure enough I had missed my train. Missing this meant I would miss my plane. As I sat on the next train after waiting for 45 minutes, I decided I was OK with missing my train and flight as it was actually my fault for being late. Then when I finally arrived at the airport, I went up to the counter only to find that my plane was… 2 hours late. I hadn’t missed it at all.
And then moments later, as I went to go settle and wait for the flight, I saw a man in red robes, posing for a picture. It was the Dalai Lama. He put his arm around me and asked, “Where are you from?” I burst into tears, “Canada!” I said, as he waved and walked off to his gate.
I met the Dalai Lama, again traveling, this time at a Neuroscience and Consciousness Conference in Wisconsin where we were invited to share our work. He shook my hand, and a surge of energy rushed up it. I’m sure he didn’t remember me from a decade earlier, but I certainly hadn’t forgotten.
Q: Tell us about a great little place you recommend to friends
A: Eatwith.com. It’s actually thousands of places to eat with locals.
“I would do almost anything to relive every minute of this hotel stay...”
It’s a funny one: the Chicago Airport Grand Hyatt. We arrived in Chicago, late, and missed our transfer. We were stranded for the night waiting on the next departure. Rather than fussing, my partner and I decided we would enjoy it. Scores of people were in the same position and not so happy about it. We were sent to the Grand Hyatt to enjoy a free room – the hotel was amazing, like a strange 1960’s concrete monolith. There was this joy that came from being extremely relaxed and nice to all the people we encountered when they were at their most tired and grumpy, having either been delayed or having to deal with delayed people. We got the last rooms available and they ended up being on the top floor in this strange and awesome 1960’s tower in the ground. We had so much fun on our free night; I’d do it all over again.
Q: Confess to one thing you’ve nicked from your hotel room
A: Not a nick, but a related story: I was in Seattle, it was gorgeous and I had an hour before I had to go to the airport. I wanted to go swimming in Lake Washington, but I had no towel so bought one from the hotel for $10. The moment I called the front desk to ask how much it was to BUY this worn out, thin towel from them rather than just tossing it my beach bag, I knew I’d grown up.
Q: Favourite island
A: Vakaʻeitu, a small island of Tonga.
Q: UNESCO World Heritage Site that blows your mind
A: Lijiang, Versailles, and Notre Dame Cathedral. I’ve seen many, and they’re all pretty special.
Q: The best spa experience of your life
A: Tofino Spa Wickaninnish Inn – I remember going there after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. I was pretty wound up after Bright Lights, the installation we made that let people control lights on the CN Tower, Niagara Falls and the Canadian Parliament buildings from 3000 miles away, using just their minds. What a project! I went to Wickaninnish and had a room that overlooked the beach, framed by rolling hills. It was March and the surf was up. The spa was stunning, and I recall sitting out after a warm massage, under the bright stars in the moist, warm Tofino air. The stars were so bright, and I was feeling so alive and energized and excited about the world.